Homeless Woman Set on Fire in LA
Police say no motive for the brutal attack
By Mark Russell, Newser Staff
Posted Dec 28, 2012 9:38 AM CST
A burned city bus bench seen in the Van Nuys section of Los Angeles yesterday, after police arrested a man for allegedly setting a 67-year-old woman on fire who was sleeping on the bus stop bench.   (AP Photo/Greg Risling)

(Newser) – Flo Parker, aka Violet, had long been a regular presence on Los Angeles' Van Nuys Boulevard. The small, 67-year-old homeless woman used exact change to buy her regular pack of smokes at a gas station in the morning. She recycled cans rather than beg. She went to Central Lutheran Church for its free lunches on Wednesdays and Thursdays. She was the "sweetest lady on the street," a local tells the AP. And she slept on a bus bench outside the Walgreens each night. But at 1am yesterday, while sleeping on that bench, she was doused with a flammable liquid and set ablaze, reports the Los Angeles Times.

Parker was taken to hospital and is in critical condition. Police arrested Dennis Petillo, 24, on suspicion of attempted murder. "There was no incident or dispute or clear motivation for this horrific attack. He did not know his victim. It defies explanation," said the LAPD deputy chief. "He is not of sound mind.... The motive is mental illness." A witness says Petillo exited the Walgreens carrying what looked like rubbing alcohol. "He just poured it all over the old lady. Then he threw the match on her and started running."

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Showing 3 of 43 comments
Dec 29, 2012 3:45 AM CST
There was an article a few days ago about a guy studying how to save turtles . Seems a lot of them were being hit crossing roads. His study found that a lot of people will go out of their way to hit a turtle (or other animal) in the road. A scientist questioned about this said that some people have a need to feel superior to others or to nature and deliberately victimize animals or people to do it. Same principal is in effect here. People think of the homeless as 'non-humans' who are just 'too lazy to work' and are 'sponging off the government'. Thus they are not worthy of living. We need to get beyond this thinking and remember that everyone was part of a family at one time. Everyone had parents, many had siblings, some had children. How they ended up on the streets is another story. I met a woman who was homeless because a neighbor set her house on fire after he was evicted from his house. She was in her 50s and had lost her job a few months before the fire. She would eventually get back into her house after repairs were made but not everyone is so lucky.
Dec 29, 2012 2:15 AM CST
Really feeling terrible for the old lady. But she is very fortunate to have survived 10 years on that bench. Surely, she could find and afford an apartment, roommate, or room in the past 10 years. It seems like her luck just ran out. One cannot continue to do goofy stuff without suffering any consequence of one's goofy actions. Sleeping on a bus stop bench is goofy and [as we well know now] highly dangerous and a fire hazard. Prayers for a full and speedy recovery. May God bless us all.
Dec 28, 2012 9:58 PM CST
thank god he didnt have a gun, he might have shot someone....